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How to Photograph Swimming

MaggieM
Contributor

Hi,

I am going to a swim competition so I can take some photos for my team. Does anyone have suggestions for creative/professional swimming photography. I'm a bit of a newbie to sports photography (I do mainly wildlife). Thanks so much,

Maggie

(Canon EOS rebel t6)

2 ACCEPTED SOLUTIONS

Tintype_18
Authority
Authority

Indoors or outdoors? I take photos in both places. I do use faster lens speeds to catch the arms out of the water and the splashes upon diving. Might experiment at the pool before competition. Good thing about DSLR is no light meter or film is needed.

John
Canon EOS T7; EF-S 18-55mm IS; EF 28-135mm IS; EF 75-300mm; Sigma 150-600mm DG

View solution in original post

wq9nsc
Authority
Authority

Maggie,

I shoot swim @ 1/800 but I primarily use that shutter speed because I shoot inside and even with fast (wide aperture) lenses that is about the fastest without pushing the ISO too high.  Going to 1/1,000 or slightly higher is desirable if gear and lighting conditions permit.

Outside you will have plenty of light but you have to watch for excessive glare/reflection off the water, very high contrast if late in the afternoon, and of course making sure to stay properly positioned so you aren't shooting into the sun and capturing silhouettes.

You will want to take a variety of shots and from different angles.  Some swimmers always breathe to one side while others alternate so that is something to watch/plan for when trying to capture faces.  The butterfly is probably the easiest stroke to capture because of this and most shots will be best from shooting very low but mix some other angles in for variety.

I assume you have deck access and if so your lens should suffice although it is a bit short for a lot of shots.  But with plenty of light, you should be able to keep ISO low enough to allow for some pretty heavy cropping.  If you don't normally use a clear glass protector on your lens, do so because you will be wiping splash droplets off of it.  With a protector, you don't have to worry about damaging the coating on a lens front element.

Swim is definitely not one of my favorite sports to shoot but I have done several meets over the years.  I always make a point of introducing myself to the officials before the meet so that they know who I am, what I am doing, and most importantly that I know what I am doing.

Have fun and learn a lot from your first swim experience.  The first time I shot swim, it was decidedly awkward because it was at a regional meet and the pool deck was incredibly crowded.  I don't mind making room for myself on the sidelines at football but there is no way I am elbowing girls in swimwear out of the way 🙂  But after getting to know the swimmers, it turned into a pretty fun event and when I shot their senior night later in the season it was a very comfortable experience for all of us.  At one point, I was at the end to capture some good closeups before the flip turn and the girl holding the lap count told me to watch out or I would get splashed.  I got my photos and jumped out of the way and told her, "don't worry, I move pretty fast."  She then scooped up a handful of water and threw it on my pants and told me "not fast enough" 🤣 That interaction caused the head official to start laughing so hard he almost fell in the pool.

These are a few of the photos from that meet, I will message you the link to that photo set on Smugmug and the exposure data and focal length for each image can be viewed by selecting an image and then tapping the i button near the image.  Good luck and share some of your results on the forum after the meet.

Rodger

AC4I1031.jpgAC4I1038.jpgAC4I1129.jpgAC4I1590.jpg

EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

View solution in original post

8 REPLIES 8

Tintype_18
Authority
Authority

Indoors or outdoors? I take photos in both places. I do use faster lens speeds to catch the arms out of the water and the splashes upon diving. Might experiment at the pool before competition. Good thing about DSLR is no light meter or film is needed.

John
Canon EOS T7; EF-S 18-55mm IS; EF 28-135mm IS; EF 75-300mm; Sigma 150-600mm DG

Thank you for your response (: I shoot almost entirely outside. Thankfully I have warm ups to practice. What would you say is a good starting place for shutter speed. Also, I only have a 18-55mm lens with a 2.2x extension can you still take good photos? Thanks for your help,

Maggie

 

Maggie,

I'm thinking you're going to wind up in the 1/400 to 1/800 range.

Here's some shutter speed recommendations that I downloaded a while back.

shutter speeds for moving objects.jpg

Steve Thomas

Perfect, that really helps. (for now and in the future). Thanks for your help.

-Maggie

Stevet1, I took the liberty to print the color chart for settings and subjects. Great information and thanks for sharing.

John
Canon EOS T7; EF-S 18-55mm IS; EF 28-135mm IS; EF 75-300mm; Sigma 150-600mm DG

wq9nsc
Authority
Authority

Maggie,

I shoot swim @ 1/800 but I primarily use that shutter speed because I shoot inside and even with fast (wide aperture) lenses that is about the fastest without pushing the ISO too high.  Going to 1/1,000 or slightly higher is desirable if gear and lighting conditions permit.

Outside you will have plenty of light but you have to watch for excessive glare/reflection off the water, very high contrast if late in the afternoon, and of course making sure to stay properly positioned so you aren't shooting into the sun and capturing silhouettes.

You will want to take a variety of shots and from different angles.  Some swimmers always breathe to one side while others alternate so that is something to watch/plan for when trying to capture faces.  The butterfly is probably the easiest stroke to capture because of this and most shots will be best from shooting very low but mix some other angles in for variety.

I assume you have deck access and if so your lens should suffice although it is a bit short for a lot of shots.  But with plenty of light, you should be able to keep ISO low enough to allow for some pretty heavy cropping.  If you don't normally use a clear glass protector on your lens, do so because you will be wiping splash droplets off of it.  With a protector, you don't have to worry about damaging the coating on a lens front element.

Swim is definitely not one of my favorite sports to shoot but I have done several meets over the years.  I always make a point of introducing myself to the officials before the meet so that they know who I am, what I am doing, and most importantly that I know what I am doing.

Have fun and learn a lot from your first swim experience.  The first time I shot swim, it was decidedly awkward because it was at a regional meet and the pool deck was incredibly crowded.  I don't mind making room for myself on the sidelines at football but there is no way I am elbowing girls in swimwear out of the way 🙂  But after getting to know the swimmers, it turned into a pretty fun event and when I shot their senior night later in the season it was a very comfortable experience for all of us.  At one point, I was at the end to capture some good closeups before the flip turn and the girl holding the lap count told me to watch out or I would get splashed.  I got my photos and jumped out of the way and told her, "don't worry, I move pretty fast."  She then scooped up a handful of water and threw it on my pants and told me "not fast enough" 🤣 That interaction caused the head official to start laughing so hard he almost fell in the pool.

These are a few of the photos from that meet, I will message you the link to that photo set on Smugmug and the exposure data and focal length for each image can be viewed by selecting an image and then tapping the i button near the image.  Good luck and share some of your results on the forum after the meet.

Rodger

AC4I1031.jpgAC4I1038.jpgAC4I1129.jpgAC4I1590.jpg

EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

shadowsports
Legend
Legend

Always the best from you Rodger!!  Super cool images.  

~Rick
Bay Area - CA


~R5 C (1.0.7.1) ~RF Trinity, ~RF 100 Macro, ~RF 100~400, ~RF 100~500, +RF 1.4x TC, +Canon Control Ring, BG-R10, 430EX III-RT ~DxO PhotoLab Elite ~DaVinci Resolve ~Windows11 Pro ~ImageClass MF644Cdw/MF656Cdw ~Pixel 8
~CarePaks Are Worth It

Thanks Rick!  Swim photography is fun but football and soccer remain my favorites 🙂

Rodger

EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video
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